'Gremlins': One of the Greatest Films of the 80s!
Just Don't Feed Them After Midnight!
In my opinion, Gremlins was by far one of the greatest films of the 1980s, a decade which gave us a huge batch of classic films. The horror/comedy was released in 1984. Directed by Joe Dante and produced by Steven Spielberg, it also marked the screenwriting debut for Chris Columbus (Home Alone). Writing the screenplay for Gremlins really is the stuff that dreams are made of for Chris Columbus, as really he just wrote it to get noticed in Hollywood! He wrote it as a spec, a writing sample. Luckily for Columbus, it was brought and produced by the best, Steven Spielberg. Spielberg thought the script was one of the most original stories he had heard in years. Really is there a better way to start your screen writing career than that?
The film cost $11 million to make.
The story starts when a salesman, whilst in Chinatown, buys his son a present. He buys a cute little creature, called a Mogwai. The Mogwai comes with three very strict rules: never expose him to bright lights, water, or feed him after midnight. But naturally these things happen! The result? A gang of Gremlins starts tearing up the town on Christmas Eve.
Judd Nelson and Emilio Estevez were considered for the role of Billy Peltzer, but the filmmakers went with Zach Galligan, who made his film debut in the film. Zach was selected as they loved the chemistry he had with Phoebe Cates, who played Kate Beringer.
During filming, Phoebe Cates was genuinely scared of the Gremlins, so much so that she kept away from them as much as possible. Also Kate’s dialogue in the scene where she speaks about her dislike of Christmas was almost cut. It was considered too dark, but Joe Dante fought and won to keep it in.
We see a twelve year old Corey Feldman playing the role of Pete. This was before Corey had starred in The Goonies (also written by Chris Columbus) and Stand By Me. Then Corey was a veteran of TV commercials. He wanted to impress his real life school friends because he was in a film, so he took a piece of Mogwai fur in to school to show them. But the children laughed and made fun of him! "What is a Mogwai?!" they joked!
Tim Burton was considered and almost directed Gremlins. But in the end he was passed, due to the fact that at that point he hadn’t directed a film yet.
Gizmo was intended to turn into the Gremlin Stripe, but Spielberg overruled, saying he thought it was best to leave Gizmo furry and cute, as the audience would want that. In the department store scene, where the Gremlin Stripe attacks Billy with a chainsaw, hat was not originally in the script. It was added by Joe Dante and Zach Galligan as their homage to the film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Stripe was voiced by Frank Welker. He is best known for voicing Fred Jones on Scooby Doo, Megatron on Transformers, and everybody’s favourite frog, Kermit, on Muppet Babies. The voice of the super cute Gizmo was voiced by Howie Mandel. But he didn’t sing Gizmo's song, for that a thirteen-year-old girl was brought in to record the part. Howie Mandel also voiced Skeeter, Animal and Bunsen for two series of Muppet Babies.
The film was magically set at Christmas time, and it is now regarded as a classic must-see Christmas viewing. However, it was originally a summer film in America. It was released on the 8th of June, 1984, brought out to rival other huge releases, Ghostbusters and Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom. In the UK however, Gremlins was released perfectly in December!
Gremlins opened the same day as Ghostbusters and they both did extremely well. Ghostbusters was the second highest grossing film of 1984. Gremlins was fourth with $148 million.
Steven Spielberg himself makes a cameo in the film. Yes indeed! When Mr Peltzer is on the phone at the convention, look out for a man driving in front of him in a big ‘go kart’ type vehicle, which has an American flag on the back. That man is Steven Spielberg, the man himself! The script was originally much darker; for example, in the scene where Billy’s mum goes to investigate the noises from the loft, she was originally meant to be decapitated by the Gremlins. They then were to toss her head down the stairs, to be found by Billy. Also it was planned and then changed that the Gremlins would eat Billy’s dog, Barney. But Steven Spielberg wanted to make the film more family-friendly, so that idea was dropped.
Gremlins is just as great to watch now as it was in 1984. You never get tired of watching Gremlins. It was a little scary for children back in the 80s, especially when one of the Gremlin’s goes in the microwave and we see green blood! And every time you passed a Christmas tree, you would have to seriously consider whether or not a Gremlin was hiding inside there!